#54 — Bill Bishop (Sinocism)


Hello! And welcome to another edition of Inside The Newsroom. Today’s guest is… Bill Bishop, author of the Sinocism newsletter. Bill has covered China for several decades and has become an expert on everything China, so we got into why tensions between the U.S. and China are so bad right now, how bad they are in a historical context, and we also discussed what might or might not happen in the latest debacle between the two countries involving the NBA. Below is a post-game of everything we talked about, enjoy! 🤓🇺🇸🇨🇳

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An Interview with Bill Bishop, Creator of the Sinocism Newsletter

The NBA’s Poisoned China Chalice

Two weeks before the new NBA season was due to start, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey sent a tweet affirming his support for Hong Kong’s freedom. No big deal, right? Well, as soon as you introduce billions of dollars into the mix, it quickly becomes a major problem. It’s estimated that 800 million people watch the NBA in China, almost three times the entire population of the U.S., resulting in around $4 billion in annual revenue for the NBA.

Morey deleted the tweet in a hurry, but he should have known that the internet is an unforgiving place, and the backlash started almost immediately in China. Whether he was instructed to by the NBA and the Rockets or not, Morey quickly issued an apology:

While much of the fiasco centred around the NBA’s lack of crisis management, it became clear that on American soil, China vs the U.S. is a bipartisan issue. My God did I never thought I’d agree with Mr. Trusted himself, but we’re in weird times.

As it stands, Chinese broadcasters have quietly begun to stream games again after threatening to cancel multibillion dollar contracts, while the NBA has made things 10 times worse by attempting to control the narrative back at home by confiscating signs at games in support of Hong Kong.

Bill Bishop, Sinocism

The Birth of Chinese Nationalism

Nationalism in China as we know it began on May 4, 1919, when 100,000 Chinese students took to the symbolic Tiananmen Square to protest their country’s paltry reparations for helping the allied forces defeat Germany and Austria-Hungary in World War I. Although they joined the war late, several hundred thousand Chinese workers significantly boosted the allied powers in France, the Middle East and Russia.

In return, China wanted to reclaim Qingdao and the surrounding Shandong Peninsula, after Germany occupied the Chinese port city in 1897. When the victorious allies met in Paris to reshape the world after the war, also known as the Treaty of Versailles, the disputed territory was awarded to Japan, and China was given the cold shoulder.

On that fiery day in Tiananmen Square 100 years ago, the huge protests led to the dismissal of three pro-Japanese officials and the resignation of the entire cabinet. Thirty-one countries eventually signed the Treaty, but China wasn’t one of them, and nationalism in China was born.

Salvatore Babones, Foreign Policy

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This Is the Worst It’s Been Since the Korean War

The NBA debacle is symbolic for just how tense relations between the world’s two superpowers are. Things may have never been this bad since the breakout of the Korean War in 1950, when China defended communist North Korea and the U.S. backed South Korea. Through the years, the differences have mainly been over core values — like that thing called freedom of speech — and economic superiority. But in the past couple of years, the pressure has been ratcheted up.

Back in March, 2018, Donald Trump issued a sweeping round of tariffs on Chinese goods totalling around $50 billion, and then followed that up with a further $34 billion in tariffs four months later. Naturally, China retaliated with tariffs of its own on U.S. products totalling around $34 billion as well. Then came the Huawei lawsuit against the U.S. for banning federal agencies from buying its products. Huawei is of course the Chinese telecommunications company that is reported to have close links with the Chinese government and thus pose a significant security risk. Naturally, this resulted in another Chinese retaliation and a slew of American companies were blacklisted from operating in China. But that’s nothing new, as the “Great Firewall of China” has been in operation for decades. Exhausted yet?

The latest round of economic tit-for-tat is being played out as we speak, and the two countries are finalizing the first part of a massive trade deal that should soothe tensions for the time being.

Council on Foreign Relations

What’s In the Trade Deal?

Talks between the U.S. and China are secretive, but here’s what’s been reported to be included…

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Next up… is Lindsay Gibbs, author of the Power Plays newsletter, host of the Burn It All Down podcast and writer for the The Athletic.

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